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Naa Sháade Háni (Clan Leader): Stepping into the Office of Clan Leader  

In December 2019, after several months of deliberation, Sealaska Heritage's Council of Traditional Scholars developed this Clan Leaders statement to offer the minimal qualities of character and knowledge that they collectively see as necessary for clan leaders.  It does not propose to include all requirements or responsibilities. The Council further recognizes that clans may have additional or different standards and these are respected. The Council of Traditional Scholars recognizes this is an organic document and that changes and amendments may be made in the future. The Council encourages others to offer their recommendations.  

Office Title

Naa sháade háni: Clan leader

Hít s’aatí: Head of a clan house; master of the house; house leader


Individuals must demonstrate initiative to learn about their clan, culture, and history. The maternal uncle or maternal clan mother should instill and cultivate in the individual knowledge, discipline, courage, wisdom, and respect for all people, places and things. They must be trained to know the role and responsibilities of a clan leader. This training should include learning of clan songs, stories, history, language, names, clan relationhips, and homeland.  The clan leader candidate or designee must be trained in leading clan ceremonies and responding to opposite clans. The candidate must know the genealogy of their in-laws, who include their father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s, and great-great-grandfather’s people of the opposite side.

Attributes of Clan Leader:

  • Integrity
  • High moral standing and character
  • Exemplary in all aspects of Tlingit life
  • Respectable social standing
  • Leadership capabilities
  • Capable of leading ceremonies
  • Competent in oratory/public speaking
  • Knowledgeable about clan songs, oral traditions, history, names,    ceremonial practices, specific relationships to other clans (in-laws), at.óow
  • Committed to expending time and resources to fulfill responsibilities of the office of clan leader
  • Dedicated to supporting other clan leaders

Stepping into the Office of Clan Leader:

  • Dedicated to fulfilling the responsibilities of the office of the clan leader and the values and history of the clan
  • Serve as spokesperson in ceremonial activities
  • Hold clan at.óowu in trust for succeeding generations
  • Ensure clan ownership of clan at.óowu, songs, stories, names, and crests is protected and validated in clan ceremonies
  • Organize and financially support clan ceremonies – ḵu.éex’
  • Support other clan members in time of grief and loss of family.

Validation of Clan/House Leaders

The clan must announce in advance the validation/appointment of a new clan leader that will be held at a ḵu.éex’ for the deceased clan leader, which shall take place in the home community. 

The appointed naa káani will invite to the ku.éex’ the host clan’s in-laws including their father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s, and great-great-grandfather’s people of the opposite side.

A candidate or designee is validated as a clan/house leader in a ku.éex’ in the presence of clan leaders and members of the opposite clans who will respond and acknowledge the new clan leader.